Men’s soccer prepares for a big home finale starting Friday

The JU men’s soccer team enters a pivotal point in its season as the Dolphins host their final set of home matches starting on Friday against USC Upstate at 8 p.m.

The Dolphins (3-9-1, 1-4 Atlantic Sun), who play ETSU on Sunday at 2 p.m., sits in last place in the conference standings and will need to win each match to have a chance at being one of the six seeds for the A-Sun tournament.

“We just have to keep playing and fighting,” said JU head coach Mike Johnson. “I told our team that you don’t win a fight unless you keep punching. Our kids know how important this weekend is to our chances at making the conference tournament. We have had to change our team goals this week and it’s ‘flight or fight’ for us. We are on a mission and its starts with these two games.”

Last weekend, the Dolphins could have lived by the saying ‘close is for slow dances and hand grenades’ after falling in consecutive overtime matches to Belmont (2-1) and Lipscomb (1-0) in Nashville.

JU is in the middle of a four-match losing skid and have only scored twice in 55 chances. Despite outshooting their opponents each half, the Dolphins have been outscored, 5-0, after the first half during the stretch.

Senior midfielder Stefan Runeman scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season against Belmont to give the Dolphins their last set of points.

USC Upstate (4-6-2, 1-2-2) comes to Friday’s match after tying Stetson on Oct. 16 and falling in overtime to Florida Gulf Coast, 1-0, two days later. The Spartans’ lone win in conference play came at Mercer on Oct. 10.

Offensively, the Spartans are led by junior forwards Erkan Yildirim and Maurice Beggs, who have three goals apiece. Senior goalie Pat Regina has 74 saves and a 1.34 goals against average in 12 matches.

East Tennessee State (2-7-3, 1-3-1) plays at North Florida on Friday night before playing the Dolphins in their home finale on Sunday. The Buccaneers downed Florida Gulf Coast last weekend and fell to Stetson, 1-0, to close out their week.

Sophomore midfielder Sean Hoek has a team-best three goals this season, while senior goalie Scott Rosman has made 31 saves and allowed 16 goals in 12 matches.

Both matches this weekend are slated to be streamed live on A.Sun.TV through Sunday’s match is also Senior Day for the Dolphins as they will honor Runeman, Joey Sanchez, Jonathan Jackson, Eddie Munnelly, Riley Butler and Erik Sheppard in a special pre-match ceremony.